Business & Economy

Building Economic Independence in Palestine

The following is a speech given by Sam Bahour at the Second Annual Conference on Non-Violent Popular Resistance in the Palestinian village of Bil’in. “Israel is making sure land is not sufficient for daily life, let alone economic independence. The hand of occupation controls the lands we can cultivate and the destiny of the trees that we plant. We are forced to buy our water from the Israeli water company, paying more than Israelis buying from the same source but using less per capita.” 

Restrictions threaten Gaza fishermen's livelihoods

While Palestinian fishermen have recently been allowed to resume some fishing activities in the Gaza Strip’s coastal waters following a near total ban since June 2006, restrictions on where they can fish continue to undermine the industry. More than 40,000 Gazans depend on the fishing industry as their primary source of income. However, they have become progressively impoverished in the last six years, requiring assistance. The World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other humanitarian agencies now provide food and support job creation for the fishing families. 

Economic developments in 2006: A First Assessment

After having experienced a modest recovery in 2003-05, the Palestinian economy suffered another decline in 2006, as a result of the domestic and international political difficulties. Although hard data are scarce, real GDP is estimated to have fallen within a range of 5 to 10 percent in 2006, less than initially had been feared, but still leaving average real per capita GDP at almost 40 percent below its 1999 level. Stronger-than-expected official and private inflows have helped prevent a much sharper decline in incomes and consumption in 2006, thus cushioning the overall contraction. But with a larger decline in investment, from an already low level, this also signals a further hollowing out of the Palestinian economy. 

Gaza power supply under pressure

The Gaza Strip in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continues to suffer daily power cuts eight months after Israel bombed its only power station, leaving health services relying on expensive generators and residents without regular electricity or water. The cuts have continued despite new transformers being installed in November 2006 at the privately owned Gaza Power Generating Company (GPGC) power station. All six of the original transformers were destroyed by Israeli warplanes days after Palestinian militants kidnapped an Israeli soldier last June. The cuts have left hospitals relying on diesel generators supplied with fuel financed by foreign donors. 

Legal action in France against Veolia and Alstom

Last week the Association France Palestine Solidarite (AFPS) has taken legal action in France against Veolia and Alstom because both companies are involved in the Israeli light rail or tramway project that will run on occupied East Jerusalem. The National Collective for Peace [1] gives full support to the legal steps taken by AFPS. Veolia and Alstom have closed their ears to widely voiced criticism that the Israeli tramway project is in violation with international law. Just like Israel the companies act as if they stand above the law. The aim of the action is the annulment of the contracts and to stop the construction activities. 

Israelis Keep a Fishy Watch

GAZA CITY, Feb 14 (IPS) - In the driving rain, Suhail el-Amoudi stands on the wharf of the Gaza City port looking out over the aged and weathered fishing boats as they bob perilously amid the swells of a Mediterranean winter storm. But for el-Amoudi, a 30-year veteran fisher of Gaza’s waters, it is not the waves or the wind that concerns him. Rather, it is the Israeli naval vessel on the horizon, clearly visible despite the storm. Throughout the last three decades at sea, El-Amoudi has seen many changes — but there is always one constant of life in Gaza: “The Israelis are the key to the experience,” he said. “Their presence is always felt.” 

Occupation and Aid

There is no need to go into details, once again, about the extensive damage caused to the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation forces. We have heard much already of the mounting poverty rate, that GDP has fallen by 9% during the first half of 2006, that 25% of the Palestinian work force is suffering from a severe loss of income due to the sanctions on the PA, and that welfare payments have fallen by US$180 million. Moreover, Per-capita consumption in Palestine has fallen by 12%. Deep poverty is reaching alarming proportions, in Gaza it is already at 79.8%. Additionally, food insecurity is also at very high levels, reaching up to 41% in Gaza. 

Israeli lock-down cripples Nablus economy

Israeli moves to control movement in and out of the city of Nablus are thwarting humanitarian aid efforts and damaging the local economy, according to aid agencies and local residents. Israeli checkpoints surrounding the city of more than 200,000 people mean that no vehicle can leave or enter Nablus without an Israeli permit. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that such permits are difficult to obtain, particularly for Palestinians. Liz Sime, from the US-based global humanitarian organisation CARE International, said that, “[our] teams lose up to two hours each time they try to exit Nablus, raising costs at an unreasonable rate”. 

Israel's Economic Stranglehold a Silent Killer

Over the last year, Palestinians have faced a siege that has taken its toll in every city across the West Bank and Gaza. It is not a siege of missiles and gunfire, but a calculated attack on the backbone of the entire occupied territories. Through the Israeli, U.S. and European move to paralyse the precarious Palestinian economy over the last year, daily life has become a constant struggle for the ordinary Palestinian trying to put food on the table or run a business within a choking, round-the-clock military occupation. Additionally, since February 2006, Israel has worked hard to pressure international aid organisations and donor countries to suspend aid projects in Palestine. 

South African Food and Alied Workers Union condemns imports from Israel

The Food and Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU) condemns Shoprite Checkers, Pick ‘n Pay and Fruit and Veg for the import of avocado pears from Israel. FAWU is appalled at the insensitivity towards the plight of the Palestinian people by the procurement of supplies from an oppressive, apartheid country like Israel. It seems like rubbing salt in the wounds of Palestinians to procure supplies. FAWU is convinced that the import of these goods are in contravention of the spirit of various International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. FAWU calls on the above retailers to immediately cease importing produce from Israel.